With the May elections fast approaching, I’m delighted that the Co-operative Party is in a fantastic position to seize the important opportunity they provide and help secure champions of our proud movement in town halls right across the country.

Because this year we are standing a record number of candidates for the Party, with over 1,000 co-operators ready to put our values, principles, and ideas into action in their communities.

It’s also important that our candidates reflect the communities they seek to serve, and as well as standing our largest ever group of Co-operative Party candidates, I’m proud that it is our most diverse cohort too.

Where too often local government suffers from a lack of diversity and representation, nearly half of this year’s Co-operative candidates identify as women, around a third are BAME, nearly a quarter have a disability, and over 15 per cent identify as LGBTQ+.

We have a good number of young candidates, too, with one in ten under the age of 30 ensuring the next generation of co-operators have a pathway to standing as elected representatives.

Both the size of our local election cohort and the diversity within it is a testament to the progress of the Co-operative Party in recent months and years.

We have made concerted efforts to provide greater support to candidates, encourage diversity, and ensure accessibility, through initiatives like the Candidate Development Programme, tailored training, a dedicated mentor scheme, and so much more.

As well as the candidates, it’s important we equip them with the ideas and solutions to make a difference.

In town halls it’s imperative our campaigns on fair tax, food justice, and modern slavery are continued in earnest, and the huge successes we’ve achieved already are built upon.

And in the recent publication of the Co-operative Commission in Tower Hamlets report, for instance, we have the blueprint of how local authorities can utilise co-operative solutions and adopt our values across a huge range of areas.

When we win power, we win the ability to change lives and make the communities we serve better for everyone.

And from those examples the Party is continuing to campaign nationally on matters of huge importance in a variety of sectors, demonstrating the breadth of solutions our movement can offer.

On the Economic Crime Bill, for instance, we helped ensure over 5,000 people sent letters to their MP outlining their support for efforts to reduce the time period before new regulations aimed at increasing transparency of ownership on UK assets in light of the war in Ukraine.

With the Government’s decision to sell-off Channel 4, our petition to offer a mutual alternative that would prevent its privatisation and safeguard it for future generations has now been signed by almost 25,000 people.

And we’re continuing our work on to secure a Right to Food and food justice for all, supporting community energy, tackling the cost-of-living crisis, revitalising our high streets, championing fairtrade and co-operative international development, and more.

Jonathan Reynolds, our Co-operative Parliamentary Group member and Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Industrial Strategy has also announced that under a Labour and Co-operative government, he would look to move responsibility for co-operatives from Treasury to BEIS. Such a move would be an important step to level the playing field, and help ensure development and support of co-operatives is at the forefront of government’s thinking.

The elections in May are of huge importance for a number of reasons, not least in allowing voters to have their say on the recent actions of the Prime Minister and the Government’s inaction on the many challenges facing us all.

But as much as anything, they provide a chance for us all to continue this work as an active, campaigning Party that priorities making a real difference where it matters most, and to do so with more co-operators than ever championing our cause as elected Co-operative Party representatives.